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Urban planning prof: Detroit has no strategy for development

The incomplete Wayne County jail.
Wayne County
Wayne County
The incomplete Wayne County jail.

Robin Boyle is astonished at the pace of development in metro Detroit -- development that is largely the result of public-private partnerships.

But the professor of urban studies at Wayne State University worries it's all happening too fast.

Take the proposed land swap between businessman Dan Gilbert and Wayne County.  The deal would let Gilbert build a major league soccer stadium on the site of the county's partly-finished jail - and in return Gilbert would build the county a new jail for $300 million. 

Boyle says such a deal will have dramatic effects on Detroit's traffic and neighborhoods, which Wayne County and the city probably won't have time to consider, if they're to meet Gilbert's February 20th deadline to respond.

"Detroit and Wayne County has not had a chance to think long and hard about exactly about how the downtown, midtown, the corridors around freeways, Woodward, I-75, the Lodge, is going to evolve," says Boyle.

Boyle says Gilbert is proposing to build the new jail on East Forest Avenue, directly across from a neighborhood.

"Imagine people saying, 'Oh by the way, we're going to bring a 1,600-bed adult jail facility and a 160-bed youth detention  facility to your neighborhood. Think on that," says Boyle.

Work on the county's partly-finished jail was suspended because of cost overruns.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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